Not that I would ever be a “typical” mother, but I am most definitely not one given this child of mine. While the days of being the only mother at the playground actually up on the equipment with the kids are long gone, I still do some version of this now. Often on these lovely fall days, while the neighborhood moms are hanging out in someone’s front yard, I am facilitating C’s interactions. “He’s doing fine,” I hear on many occasions. “They’ll work things out.”
And there it is: the grand difference between us – the idea that the kids will work it out. Actually, mine won’t. Yours will – they’ll bicker and fight and be best friends again five minutes later. C, however, will often alienate kids because his negotiating, problem-solving, and compromising skills are significantly less developed than the kids around him. An argument over a ball can have life-altering consequences for C because your child won’t want to be friends with him after it’s over. Or C will lose it and start crying, and the other children will stare and snicker at his socially “inappropriate” behavior. And they don’t forget. No matter how many times you tell me that all kids do that, you simply don’t understand that my kid does it times ten. And the all kids you are talking about are generally half C’s age.
This is where I get angry. Because if C lived his life in a wheelchair, you would do everything you could to make sure he is fairly included in every activity. But because his disability – and yes, in this area I have now painfully come to conclude that for C it is a disability in many ways – is invisible, no matter how much you talk to your kids about accepting his differences, they still don’t want to be around him a lot of the time. Friends who couldn’t get enough of him months ago can now hardly be civil to him. And he doesn’t understand why.
Then I feel guilty for being angry. Because you have in fact talked to your children about accepting C’s differences. You have talked to them about being kind to him no matter what. Your kids are nice kids. What I’m asking of your kids is often more than I can do myself; I get just as annoyed with C as your kids do. He doesn’t back down, he won’t drop an argument, and he won’t give you your space when you ask for it. I, like no one else, understand how frustrating it can be to be friends with C, despite his endless kindness, thoughtfulness, and genuine fondness for simply everyone he encounters. You have to work really, really hard to be friends with C, and most kids just aren’t capable of that level of effort.
Then I get angry all over again, because C is a kid who will play with anyone and include everyone. The same can’t be said for the rest of the world, and definitely not for the rest of the neighborhood. So I soldier on, facilitating interactions and trying my best to help the other kids relate to my own while at the same time trying to teach C how to navigate the social waters of life.
One Mom summed it up by saying that we are trying to teach our kids tolerance. And while I agree with that sentiment, I’m not sure that I agree that any of us are having any real success.